by Sugar le Fae
The Tanner’s Wife
For more generations than memory,
we’ve farmed these fields on the edge
of the steppes, tamed the grain
and the cattle that ate it.
At four, I watched my father strip
the skin from a young bull
hung up by its quarters,
the muscle glistening above snow.
Sheared and shaved, he tanned
the skins in urine till they turned
soft as the curds we traded
from mountain herders.
That’s the memory I’m left with
a hundred generations later.
When they dug me up
in western China, my hair was still red
and sinuous as naked muscle.
But my skin, in tribute, had tanned.